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  • Science Ticker

    Surge seen in number of U.S. wildfires

    Guest post by Beth MoleThe number and size of wildfires in the western United States has steadily risen over the last three decades, according to a new report.Between 1984 and 2011, the number of large, uncontrolled burns jumped by seven each year. The area of scorched land also expanded by 355 square...
    04/19/2014 - 18:00 Earth, Ecosystems
  • Science Ticker

    Huge space rock rattled Earth 3 billion years ago

    An asteroid almost as wide as Rhode Island may have plowed into Earth 3.26 billion years ago, leaving its mark in South Africa’s Barberton greenstone belt.Hitting the planet at a speed of 20 kilometers per second, the 37- to 58-kilometer-wide space rock could have jolted...
    04/10/2014 - 12:28 Earth
  • News

    Tiny minerals may have shaped Earth's first plate boundaries

    The first sutures in early Earth's skin formed because of the weakness of rock minerals merely a millimeter wide, two scientists propose. The small minerals’ behavior created boundaries defining Earth’s first crustal plates and set the stage for plate tectonics, according to a new computer simulation appearing April 6 in Nature.Plate...
    04/06/2014 - 13:05 Earth
  • Editor's Note

    Science can save lives, but only if society lets it

    Society faces lots of problems that science can’t yet fix, from the troubling rise in asthma to the lack of a cheap energy source that doesn’t harm the environment. But there are also plenty of cases in which scientists know enough to avert tragedy. Whether society acts on that knowledge is a separate issue.The resurgence of whooping cough offers one example. A new type of pertussis vaccine was...
    04/04/2014 - 15:00 Earth, Health
  • Feature

    Buying time when quakes hit

    At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, an earthquake-detection station on Japan’s northeast coast began rocking back and forth, rattled by a powerful seismic wave racing from deep offshore. Just 5.4 seconds later, the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a notice that a magnitude 4.3 quake had begun.As the seconds ticked by, however, and more stations picked up the rippling wave, the tremor started...
    04/04/2014 - 12:00 Earth
  • Science Visualized

    Seismic signals chronicle deadly landslide

    At 10:37 a.m. local time on March 22, as much as 5 million cubic meters of sediment slid down a hillside outside Oso, Wash., killing dozens and damming a stretch of the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. The debris scraping and bouncing downhill generated seismic waves like those...
    04/04/2014 - 08:30 Earth
  • Science Visualized

    Evolution of river systems

    A river’s erosion downward and across a landscape is based on a variety of factors, including terrain steepness and the arrangement of tributaries. In the March 7 Science, geophysicist Sean Willett of ETH Zurich and colleagues boiled down these factors into a single parameter called χ (the Greek...
    04/01/2014 - 09:44 Earth
  • Science Ticker

    How Earth’s radiation belt gets its ‘stripes’

    Earth’s spin may be giving the planet’s inner radiation belt zebralike stripes.Scientists thought interactions between particles from the sun and the belt would cause these types of patterns. But new observations show that the inner belt has organized layers of electrons even when the sun spews relatively few particles in the planet’s direction. Simulations also show that Earth’s rotation can...
    03/19/2014 - 18:39 Planetary Science, Earth
  • Science Ticker

    How the Chicxulub impact made acid rain

    Acid rain from the Chicxulub asteroid impact, which happened roughly 65 million years ago and is linked to the death of the dinosaurs, could have created a mass...
    03/11/2014 - 08:00 Earth, Oceans, Climate
  • News in Brief

    Shifting grains may explain earthquake lightning

    DENVER— Beads and flour could help explain a rare and mysterious phenomenon: lightning strikes called earthquake lights that occur before or during major quakes. New results presented March 6 at an American Physical Society meeting demonstrate that shifting granular materials, which simulate earth along a fault, can...
    03/10/2014 - 15:00 Physics, Earth